The Square and Unstuck Imposition of Rhymes on Independence Day
Reflections on what our music and our movies say about us, where we've been, and where we are headed.
A gardener we know approached Kate’s car yesterday to ask if she had any fun plans for the Fourth of July, and if she likes the British new wave band The Cure. Kate said yes, she loves The Cure, but a discerning listener might have been skeptical, for at that moment the car was filled with the sounds of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” The gardener said that his brother is performing in a Cure tribute band, and that Kate and Dr. Andy are invited. She said that she would keep that in mind, but over dinner last night, Kate made her musical preferences clear by recounting the lyrics while telling her story:
Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
Speaking of dancing, I was writing a poem this morning about how spending time with my Kate first thing in the morning has to be better than coffee. The verb form “has to” indicates conjecture, for I’ve never had a cup of coffee. Then I wanted to include a line about Kate’s dancing, and one of the rhyming words recommended by my rhyming dictionary was “Stockard Channing.” I dropped everything to see if Stockard Channing is still alive, and she is!
I remember that the entire Rehoboth Beach, Delaware audience and I were so concerned in 1978 that teenager Betty Rizzo (played by Stockard Channing at age 33) was pregnant because back in 1958, that would mean that Rizzo would have to drop out of Rydell High School and have the baby, perhaps derailing her life’s goals, and imperiling her future, both socially and financially. As you may remember (spoiler alert), it turns out that Rizzo wasn’t actually pregnant, so everyone in the movie theater breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that it was 1978 and not 1958.
In real life, Stockard Channing has been married and divorced four times. She has no children. She fled to London to commit herself to her first love, live theatre. I can imagine why. Having seen Daniel J. Travanti, Judi Dench, Anthony Hopkins and many other TV and film actors on stage when I lived in London (and Ian McKellen, Marlo Thomas, and Yul Brynner when I lived in Washington DC), I remember the thrill of being in the same room as someone whose characters I had admired on the small screen many times.
If my dad were alive today at age 90, he would remember the eight plays he took my brother Oliver and me to when we spent Thanksgiving week of 1984 in London and Stratford. I remember Starlight Express, The Hired Man, and this production of Henry V. I’m frustrated that my mind is fuzzy about that theatrical experience. Future Oscar-winner Kenneth Branagh was not yet famous in 1984, but you think the Star Wars fan in me would have noticed and remembered that both Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor) and Sebastian Shaw (Darth Vader without the mask) appeared in this production. For some reason, I do remember the Duke of Exeter, played by larger-than-life Brian Blessed, who later would become the oldest man to have reached the North Magnetic Pole on foot. (Late addition: Oliver says we also saw Passion Play.)
Covid- and crowd-averse, Kate and I will not be seeing a play tonight. Outdoor holiday weekend time spent with fellow Davisites is always welcome, but we feel disinclined to celebrate when the Supreme Court is making America into a crueler, more autocratic, and less safe place (as Kate told our gardener friend). Who knows if we will see some of you on the Fourth of July; we definitely won’t be seeing that Cure tribute band.
All that said, I have been listening to some Cure songs while writing this newsletter. Here’s a favorite, one that reminds me of Kate, and one that also includes dancing, but without the square imposition of rhymes – it’s from The Cure song “Doing the Unstuck”: “It's a perfect day for doing the unstuck / For dancing like you can't hear the beat and you don't give a further thought to things like feet / Let's get happy."
Happy Independence Day. I hope you are able to get both unstuck and happy this holiday weekend.
Every week I publish a new Pub Quiz. If you plan to play this week, expect questions on topics raised above, and on the following: southern states, famous caregivers, Hollywood reporters, magnolias, people named “Orel,” gloves, largely wordless characters, Davis people, music festivals, cellists, long naps, snakes, baseball greats, states and territories, poisons, butterflies, political memoirs, wars you should have learned about in school, funny nicknames in unfunny families, boulevards, secondary siblings, beans, cross-dressers, clothing stores, lakes, famous sculptures, comedic actors, current events, and Shakespeare.
Thanks to all the supporters on Patreon who make this weekly newsletter and the asynchronous pub quizzes happen. Special thanks to the Outside Agitators, the Original Vincibles, and Quizimodo. I’m always grateful to players who pledge for their entire team. Thanks also to Faith, a new subscriber, who gives me faith in humanity.
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
State Capitals. Originally settled in 1867, what state capital of more than a million people is majority-minority?
College Endowments. Which ivy league private college has the third largest endowment?
Pop Culture – Music. David St. Hibbins and Nigel Tufnel are the lead singers of what British band?
P.P.S. “Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.” Marie Curie